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Grief and Gardening Tips

I did not know it was possible to actually die of a broken heart, and yet my neighbor Kathleen has done just that. She just laid down in the bed and didn’t get up again. Her heart stopped.

Sometimes there is a moment in time, or an experience that will bond people together forever, like a lens peering into the emotions of another human, so real and vulnerable that their pain is your pain, a kind of empathy squared. One of those moments came the night Kathleen spent with my husband. That night, they drove my brother to rehab, and she swore the next time she would bring a toothbrush.

Kathleen knew a good place and could get my brother a spot, just as soon as he sobered up… Kathleen was in recovery herself and former addicts come with a streak of MUST GIVE BACK to society because they’ve pissed on too many lawns and done their fair share of wreaking havoc that there is an intense debt, a hole they have to fill, that only driving people to rehab and checking on your dog after an earthquake, can fill. And that brother of mine? 10 years later he has found sobriety.

I will never know the depths of sorrow that Kathleen felt after losing both of her sons to the opioid epidemic, but she never failed to make me laugh, ever. Damn she was funny.

For example, I made Spanikopita for her after a funeral and received a text a few weeks later….. “Just want you to know I refrained from sending you a picture of me rolling around naked in your spinach pie….” And I knew she was alright, at least for a moment.

When I first moved back to Maryland my new puppy chose her feet to pee on, and so she wore Crocs. Drawn together by toddlers and obligations, plants and old junk, she was the one who introduced me to Community Forklift. Kathleen said, “You will never believe this place…. follow me over the railroad tracks and down to the river….” and I thought, “This is it. She’s lost her mind.” But there it was, the place where I would work for the next seven years (and counting).

Recently Kathleen sent me some gardening tips, which I felt I should share, being as it’s springtime and this is a home sort of blog:

  • If you have greased your shepherd’s hooks with Vaseline to keep the squirrels off the suet cakes, it is important to remember you have done this. That way, you don’t grab it, pull and have your hand fly off and hit you in the face. It can cause a nosebleed.
  • When custom mixing soils for a particular plant in high winds, do not stand downwind and put the lightest soil in first. This will keep you from becoming covered in peat moss.
  • If you decide to just plop your butt on the ground while weeding, it is important to notice if it’s a holly tree. Self explanatory.

The tears sliding down my cheeks when I found out she had passed away made me feel guilty and a little bit selfish. Kathleen was suffering, and there was no amount of Spanikopita or cookies that would take it away. Even Regina smiled and said, “Well mom, she is with her boys now.” For once, I didn’t correct her, because maybe Regina is right. Who am I to say?

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2021.

The Community Garden

I write this post with an infection in my hand, a splinter that took two days and a fly-by-night surgical operation to remove, and even poison ivy.

The Community Garden!

The Garden was planted by a well-known horticulturalist and somehow I inherited this potential…. thing of beauty. I have wrestled with it over the years, referred to it as “The Wild Kingdom” and been fired by Pedro, my gardener. Pedro finally wised up and left me.

 The path.

But this time, I had help! My friends came from as far away as New Jersey and California and from as close as next door, somehow always as I was just finishing up. Demanding a little bit more and a few more hours. Prima said to me, “Mom he (the horticulturalist designer) is going to make a gardener of you yet!” Stewart said, “other people would have paid Pedro to rip it out and put in grass, but not you…. you have restored it.”

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

And it’s true. I finally feel like it’s becoming mine, morphing into a cottage garden like the one of my dreams, admittedly with a bit more elbow grease. I can sit outside and watch the fireflies and appreciate the work, like a runner’s high, but with more pollen.

 The swing came with the Garden.

In spite of all the injured body parts and sore muscles, I’m proud of it. It’s finally become My Wild Kingdom. Thank you my friends for helping me see what it could be and coming to the rescue.

The fig tree, still alive and well.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.

Fresh From the Garden!

I had a little baggie in my freezer with about 10 harmless-looking little peppers in it. My friend from Trinidad gave them to me last year, fresh from the garden. At the time she warned me they were hot, but I forgot.

Beware those island peppers, oh my. I wish I had a picture of those little peppers, if only for specimen identification later.

The tomatoes had a late run of productivity and were hanging green on the vines. Prima was anxious to use them, not wanting to let any of her hard work gardening go to waste.

Fresh from the garden.

Fresh salsa from the garden.

I modified this recipe, Green Tomato Salsa Verde from freshpreserving.com. It is really quite tasty, even if only people from Texas are able to eat it. This is a great way to use up the last of summer’s fresh produce.

Cooking and sneezing.

Cooking and sneezing.

Packed with flavor.

Packed with flavor.

Here’s a hint: if you start sneezing uncontrollably while making salsa, ease up on the peppers. If you went overboard, then add a little sugar or honey and extra citrus. I added the juice from two additional limes and a tablespoon of honey and was able to bring the heat down to merely tearing up instead of sneezing.

Green tomato salsa verde.

Yum!

Now, it is perfect.

© copyright 2014 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

A Summer Party!

I blame Pinterest. However, the photograph below is not from Pinterest, but from my backyard last Friday evening.

 

A Summer Party!

A Summer Party!

I have a beautiful yard, a beautiful husband, and a knack for stressing him out with my big ideas. I wanted to celebrate his 40th birthday in style while he just wanted to forget about it.

Diane Daly's Jazz Trio.

Diane Daly’s Jazz Trio.

Pinterest is eye candy for decorator types. Stunning visuals at your fingertips that make one lust for all things better around the house.

A "Cheesecake".

A “Cheesecake”.

Last Friday evening I threw a party that was worthy of Pinterest. Except it was better. On Pinterest you don’t get to hear the jazz trio playing, or taste the lobster canapés. You don’t get to feel the breeze, smell the wildflowers or watch the candlelight glimmer and the children run around with sparklers. It was magical and it was REAL.

A Cake Made of Cheese

A Cake Made of Cheese

Then there was the cheese. I made a cake out of cheese. This “cheesecake” was made of Fontina, an organic smoked Creamy Jack, and Camembert. I cut up fresh figs and sprinkled the cheese with blackberries. I used mini chalkboards for labels. It was enough cheese to please Wallace, Gromit and a hoard of people at my party. It was both easy and elegant, perfect for a beautiful summer evening.

© Mariam d’Eustachio @ Simply Turquoise 2014.